IE congressional race heats up after Palm Springs added to long-held Republican district

Josh Haskell Image
Wednesday, October 19, 2022
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Rep. Ken Calvert, a Republican who has represented parts of the Inland Empire for 30 years, is facing a big challenge now that his district includes the more liberal Palm Springs.

Sixty-nine-year-old Congressman Ken Calvert has represented the Inland Empire in Washington D.C. for 30 years, but redistricting changed the map and added Palm Springs to the 41st district.

Calvert's Democratic opponent is 37-year-old former federal prosecutor Will Rollins, who is gay and hopes to turn this historically red portion of Southern California to blue. Rollins says he decided to run following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

"While those of us in federal law enforcement were responding to that attack, my opponent was voting to de-certify the election. Voting against the commission to even investigate the attack," said Rollins.

But Calvert tells Eyewitness News it's President Biden who's failed his constituents and he promises to address high gas prices and inflation if re-elected to his 16th term.

"I'm about as opposite to my opponent as you can be. So if you like the way things are going, if you like the way this economy is moving, then vote for him," Calvert said.

"If you don't like that, you vote for me because I'm going to do what I can to reverse this inflationary spiral that we're in at the moment and that means we need to produce oil and gas. Bring the price of oil down in the world market and bring the price of natural gas down for fertilizer costs by the way have gone up 30 to 40%. That's a lot of the food prices to be honest."

The 41st district stretches from Corona to Indio and extends north almost to Yucaipa and south to Sage and Anza.

Twenty percent of the district is new including Palm Springs which has a large LGBTQ+ population.

The 41st congressional district in the Inland Empire.

Calvert has long opposed gay marriage until recently.

"President Clinton evolved and President Obama evolved on the issue of gay marriage. So did I. I voted for gay marriage recently. The country is a different place. But those issues are important, but people are more concerned about the cost of living right now. That's what I'm focused on, is to bring down the cost of living where people can afford to live in this state," said Calvert.

"Suddenly, miraculously, after Palm Springs, one of the most LGBTQ-friendly cities in the United States, gets drawn into his congressional district, he says that he's evolved," said Rollins.

Rollins has also called out Calvert for softening his tone on abortion saying his opponent is aware the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v Wade is not popular in California.

"He's trying to take a big eraser and go back to his congressional record and remind everyone that none of that ever happened and unfortunately it's there in the congressional record books. So I'm running against a guy who already voted in 1995 for a national abortion ban with no exceptions to save the life of a woman," said Rollins.

Calvert said: "Abortion is legal in California. It will probably always be legal. I would like people to make a different decision, but we're not going to legislate that way. I've always believed in exceptions. Life of the mother, rape, incest. And I think we should convince people on a different path, but abortion will be legal in the state of California."

This tight race could be one of the few seats Democrats pick up in the November midterms. Even with new voters, Calvert says nobody knows his district like him.

"I've been here in Riverside County my entire life. I was born in Corona. Live in Corona, I'll die in Corona. This is my hometown. Went to high school here. Been here all my life. My opponent has been here less than a year. Came out of LA. He's an LA guy," said Calvert.

Although Rollins grew up in the South Bay of Los Angeles, he says he's always been connected to the Inland Empire, with family in Murrieta and childhood trips to Canyon Lake. And as a federal prosecutor for five years serving the state's central district, Rollins worked extensively in and around the region. He now lives in Palm Springs.

"I want to win it by talking to people who disagree with me on some issues, but who see a path forward on compromise and want somebody who's more mainstream and not extreme regardless of what you look like or who you love," said Rollins.